The man Forbes called "the wealthiest man on earth" was among the stratospherically-high rollers in Washington Wednesday evening as guests at President Obama's second formal state dinner, this one honoring Mexican President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.
Carlos Slim, whose $53-plus billion in holdings put him atop the Forbes' list of super-wealthy in March, joined more than a dozen top "bundlers" – major fundraisers -- from Obama's 2008 campaign on the guest list. So did a handful of Hollywood luminaries, including actress Whoopi Goldberg.
It was clear after more than 30 top donors and fundraisers filed into the last White House state dinner in November that the Obama administration did not plan to break from a long tradition of using the majestic affairs to reward big-dollar political backers. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told ABC News that rewarding donors was a "time-honored tradition in Washington."
A sure sign the second state dinner would be no different came when the president selected his top fundraising guru, Julianna Smoot, to take over as the White House social secretary in February. Smoot's close relationship with the donor world was seen inside the administration as an asset, because she could help the president maintain good relations with big givers who had been accustomed to plenty of access during the campaign.
Among the top donors and fundraisers attending Wednesday's affair was Robert Wolf, the UBS Americas president who oversaw Obama's fundraising in New York. UBS, the parent corporation of UBS Americas, has been accused of costing the US Treasury billions of dollars by helping thousands of wealthy Americans evade taxes with secret bank accounts at the company's Swiss headquarters. Several UBS executives have been named in criminal indictments. UBS says it has cooperated with US authorities, and neither Wolf nor UBS Americas has been implicated in any wrongdoing.
The guest list also included Andy Spahn, a political advisor to Hollywood stars who previously served as head of corporate affairs for DreamWorks SKG, and Steve Lerner, a public relations and marketing executive from North Carolina who joined Obama's fundraising circle in the summer of 2007.
Since individual contributions to a candidate are capped, "bundlers" solicit and collect money from a large number of individuals and then present it to a candidate. The Obama administration selectively included the affiliations of the guest on its official list, including the information for more public figures on the list, while omitting their big donors' employers. Among the bundlers in attendance at the Obama's second state dinner were:
Robert C. Barber, Looney & Grossman LLP, Massachusetts. Raised $100K-$200K.
Denise Bauer, California. Raised $200K-$500K.
Fred Hochberg, New School University, Washington, DC. Raised $100K-$200K.
Michael Kempner, MWW Group, New Jersey. Raised $100K-$200K.
Steven Lerner, FGI Research, North Carolina. Raised $200K-$500K.
Grace Tsao-Wu, Freedman Seating, Illinois. Raised $200K-$500K.
John B. Emerson, Capital Guardian Trust Company, California. Raised $100K-$200K.
David Friedman, Sandy River Health Systems, Colorado. Raised $500K plus.
Jane Hartley, G7 Group, New York. Raised $200K-$500K.
Andy Spahn, Andy Spahn & Associates, California. Raised $50K-$100K.
Alexa Wesner, Texas. Raised $200K-$500K.